Resurrecting a Kawasaki KZ650 – Part 2

In Blog, Japan, Standard by Abhi1 Comment

You may remember that a little over a year ago, I tried to save a friend’s KZ650 from heading to the junkyard. Well, since then I’ve been really good at one thing – ignoring it. I kept telling myself that I would get around to fixing it but reality has finally set in and I’ve called for backup.

I’d suggest that you read Part 1, but if you don’t have time then the short version is that I adopted a bike that hasn’t run for 17 years. I thought I could use it as a way to teach myself how to work on bikes, but it turns out I’ve just cluttered up my garage even further.

First it took up space in my storage unit. Now it takes up space in my garage.

When I last checked in with you, we had bypassed the seat lock to get access to more of the bike, taken out the carbs, and started cleaning them up. Since then I’ve cleaned the carbs some more, ordered the missing carb parts, gotten the key, moved it from my storage unit to the garage in my new place, and…that’s pretty much it.

As of April 23rd, 2020, I have spent the following:

Kawasaki KZ650
Intermediate Carburetor Kit from Z1 Enterprises x4
Screw Set – Carburetor from Z1 Enterprises
NGK 14mm Spark Plugs from Z1 Enterprises x4
Shipping & Handling for Z1 Enterprises order
Haynes Workshop Manual
$0.00 (provided by my friend)
$0.00 (provided by a friend at Haynes)

Seeing as this project was moving glacially slow, I asked my buddies at Iconic Motorbikes if they’d help out. The next morning, their van was on my street and the KZ was loaded up.

The boys over at Iconic sent me a couple of photos once it arrived and jokingly gave it 2 awards: one for the dustiest bike that had ever rolled into the shop…

…and one for the heaviest carbs – even before they were completely put back together, the bank weighed 8.2 pounds.

One of the techs at Iconic is a gentleman named Stephen Brousseau – but we just call him The Professor. Steve is an ex-race mechanic who handles most of the bikes that come through the shop, and he went to work on the carbs.

I’m just glad Billy and I did a decent job bagging and labeling all the loose parts from 12 months ago!

Steve was working on my carbs in between jobs from regular clients, so I figured it would take some time before they’d be ready to get installed. But the next day, I got a call from the shop saying that Steve was done with the carbs and that I should probably buy some spark plugs before we try to start it up. Luckily, I had already ordered them, so I dropped what I was doing and rushed down to the shop. I was greeted with this. Full disclosure: we actually started the bike right before this – it started on the third kick and no one was expecting it to fire up that easily so I wasn’t even recording! I asked Steve to kick it over once more so I could send a video to the previous owner:

While waiting for me, Steve had cleaned up the old spark plugs just to make it a runner. For perspective – it took me a couple of weeks to disassemble the carbs partially (with lots of help) and then another 13 months to realize I wasn’t going to work on this bike enough. Steve had the carbs back together in 6 hours that he spread out over a couple of days while in between other jobs. I’m slightly disappointed I wasn’t able to get around to this myself, but I’m so glad there’s finally some progress!

Carbs installed and getting some fuel.

In my last post, commenter Rod wisely noted that I should test the compression before going any further with this project. That’s excellent advice, though based on the startup video I’m going to let it slide at this point. Still, it reminded me that I should also make sure there weren’t crazy back fees I was about to take on before I spent any more money on this motorcycle. A quick lookup on the CA DMV site said that I would owe a grand total of $125. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I was OK with that number considering California charged me $135 just to renew the registration on my Honda S90 for 2020.

So, I think I’m now committed to bringing this back to life. Anyone selling a KZ650 tank? I don’t think I’ll be able to use the original…

Now that I know this Kawi is worth saving, my shopping list has grown exponentially:
– battery
– air filter
– carb intake boots
– oil filter
– petcock
– grips
– throttle cables
– tires and tubes
– fork seals and dust caps
– right switch assembly
– and of course, the f’ing tank.

The plan is to keep the bike mostly stock, but there are certain things I’m not averse to improving. The current brake master cylinder is shot, so I’d like to go with something more modern. Beringer is at the top of my list as they have a “Classic” line which features modern performance and feel but with an older look. It’s not cheap, and it might be overkill, but I’m highly interested after some preliminary research.

Photo from Beringer Brakes.

Now I’m really getting ahead of myself. Photo from Beringer Brakes.

Either way, it’s time to go shopping for some KZ650 parts and I suspect I’ll be spending a lot of time on eBay. Most of the list seems like it will be easy enough to source, but if anyone has a lead on a quality tank (ideally in black but I’ll take any color), I’d be highly appreciative!